Bob Haney Interviewed by Michael Catron Part One (of Five)

Posted by on January 5th, 2011 at 12:01 AM

When I left The Comics Journal to work (briefly) for DC Comics in 1977, I experienced a bit of culture shock. Overnight, I went from being a decision-maker at a tiny publishing company to a glorified go-fer at (arguably) the biggest American comics publisher.

I was fired in the infamous “DC Implosion” some months later but got a reprieve to work on a special project — which was subsequently canceled. I was let go again, making me, as far as I know, the only person to be fired from DC Comics twice in the same year.

But what a year! I met a lot of comics creators, at DC and Marvel, who had been just names on a splash page. A few went out of their way to welcome me into the New York comics community. Bob Haney was one. Bob was a great giant of a man, with a full, bushy beard, mischief in his eyes, and a hearty, deep laugh. He seemed to be amused by the people around him, and he always greeted me like I was in on the joke.

I developed a great affection for Bob. I had loved his Metamorpho as a kid but I’d also noticed how much the series didn’t fit with the “regular” DC titles. (You can see for yourself in Showcase Presents: Metamorpho Vol. One, a 560-page blockbuster collection of the original run.)

In addition, Bob had created or co-created Sgt. Rock, Doom Patrol, Eclipso, Teen Titans, B’wana Beast, the modern Green Arrow, the Super-Sons, and others, and had also written the Silver Age Aquaman, Viking Prince, Sea Devils, and Cave Carson, to name a few. And war stories. Lots of war stories. At that time, Bob was writing Unknown Soldier and the Batman team-ups in The Brave and the Bold (another series he’d created).

After I was fired the second time, I lost touch with Bob. A few years later, The Brave and the Bold had been taken from him and he had only Unknown Soldier (a much under-appreciated series). When that was canceled, no attempt was made to find another assignment for the 28-year DC veteran. I didn’t see anything more from Bob until Chris Pedrin’s Big Five Information Guide, an index of DC’s “big five” war comics (All-American Men of War, G.I. Combat, Our Army at War, Our Fighting Forces, and Star-Spangled War Stories). Bob had written an introduction and it inspired me to get back in touch.

In 1997, I found him, still in Woodstock but preparing to move to San Felipe, Mexico, where his sister lived. We had a warm-up chat and then, a month later, a more in-depth interview for publication. The plan was to get the interview transcribed then do another session to cover the stuff we missed the first time.

But before that, Bob and I met again, for the first time in 20 years, at 1997’s San Diego Comi-Con. By 1998’s San Diego con, Bob had received the transcript and told me he’d edit it and get it back to me. Thereafter, I would sometimes see Bob at San Diego. We talked about the interview but he never got around to returning it. He’d scored a couple of assignments from the new generation of DC editors, but it seemed like they were jinxed. In 1999, Bob revived the Super-Sons in Elseworlds Giant, in a story illustrated by Keiron Dwyer. The book was printed but then immediately pulped, though a few copies escaped. Reportedly, DC was concerned that a Superbaby story in that issue contained scenes that would be dangerous if imitated by a child. In 2002, DC solicited, then cancelled, The Teen Titans Swingin’ Elseworlds Special, written by Bob and illustrated by Jay Stephens and Mike Allred, with a cover by Nick Cardy.

On Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2004, Bob passed away at age 78, after a long illness and some rough final years.

For the longest time, it seemed this unfinished interview would never see print. But here it is, at last, a slight mixing of those two conversations we had back in the winter of 1997. I just wish Bob and I could have had that one last conversation.

- Mike Catron

Haney wrote and Joe Kubert drew this sequence from “Tank 711″ in Our Army at War #86, September 1959. ©1959 DC Comics

MICHAEL CATRON: Actually, it’s appropriate that we’re speaking today [March 23, 1997], because we had a big eclipse last night.

BOB HANEY: We did? Where?

CATRON: Up in the sky? [Laughs.]

HANEY: Don’t be a smart-ass. What do you mean? In this area?

CATRON: Yeah.

HANEY: How did I not know about that? I read five newspapers a day, watch television all the time. Well, maybe if I did [hear about it], I just thought, “Oh, another eclipse.” [Catron laughs.] As the guy who invented Eclipso, to me, it’s old hat. After all, I had one in every story. [Ed. note: Catron was mistaken about the date.]

CATRON: Bob, I want to go all the way back and ask some personal questions. Where and when you were born?

HANEY: All right. I was born March 15, 1926. I was 71 last Saturday. Let me tell you a story. Can this be in the interview? Why not? I got to know this girl in her 40s, very attractive — she’s a writer. We had some business dealings and then we got to be meeting each morning for coffee, here in Woodstock. She’s a divorcée, as I am, and I started to sort of hit on her. She’s very attractive.

Finally she says to me, “Well, Bob, how old are you?” And I said, “Well, Joanne, take a guess.” So she guessed 55, see? So I said, “You’re right on. You’re marvelous at guessing.” And then she said, “Well, that’s still too old.” I started to laugh. And she said, “What are you laughing at?” And I said, “Well, if I told you, you would run screaming into the night.” [Laughter.] She guessed I was 55 and then she said that was too old anyway — to get more personal with our relationship. OK, we got that out of the way.

CATRON: Good for you.

HANEY: And now what is your next question?

CATRON: Who were your parents, where did they come from?

HANEY: My father was Robert Haney, Sr. I’m the junior. He was of Scots-Irish descent. Crazy as a loon. World War I veteran with several battle stars. Pennsylvania artillery. 108th Field Artillery, Battery “F.” He was in his 30s when I was born. I’m the youngest of three surviving children. I have two older sisters.

I was born in a hospital in Philadelphia. I weighed 11 pounds. I was the biggest baby in the hospital. I’m a big guy, as you remember. They were going to not put a tag on my toe. And my mother said, “You put a tag on his toe.” And they said, “Oh, he’s the biggest baby here. We know him.” They called me Jim Jeffries because Jim Jeffries had been the heavyweight champion some years before.

And then my mother was — her mother came from Germany, my grandmother. I knew her quite well. She came from Germany in the 1880s. She married an American of German descent, who were people from Pennsylvania — what they call Pennsylvania Dutch, which is really Pennsylvania German, a misnomer, as you probably know.

She was one of eight children. They were very poor. She met my father at the end of World War I. She was quite young and he was a few years older. They married and had a son who was born and died very quickly and then they had my two sisters and then me in the ’20s.

Two-Gun Haney

CATRON: Tell me about Two-Gun Haney.

HANEY: How did you know about that?

CATRON: You wrote about it in Big Five.

HANEY: Oh, right! Yes. We’ve had somebody in the wars — we had somebody in the Revolutionary War — Captain Paul Jones, not John Paul Jones, Captain Paul Jones, who went with my mother’s English side. He was a part of the Pennsylvania Line, as they called the regiment from Pennsylvania.

In the Civil War, he [Two-Gun Haney] was probably — I guess, my great-uncle, on my grandfather’s side, Haney, who came in later, when he married my grandmother. He was a bounty jumper. A bounty jumper was somebody who took the $300 to go as a substitute for somebody else. I don’t know whether you know about these.

CATRON: Yeah, the rich kids could afford —

HANEY: Yeah. But this poor Irishman was pretty sneaky. [Laughs.] He was an immigrant. He came over in the potato famine, probably, as a child. He was a young man, he was probably only in his 20s. He was a bounty jumper. He would take the 300 bucks and then not show up at the depot in the morning to go to the camp. [Laughter.] He did this a number of times and was caught. And they put him in a prison on an island in the Chesapeake Bay, I guess with a bunch of other bounty jumpers. He broke out one rainy night and swam ashore. He was a rugged son-of-a-bitch. And he vanished, you know — because you’re not going to hang around when the Federals are hunting you down — with dogs, probably. Nobody ever knew what happened to him.

But one day in the ’30s, in a Sunday supplement in Philadelphia, maybe the Bulletin or the Inquirer, I don’t remember which, they had an article in the glossy pages about — I’m pretty sure it was Dodge City — and there were some plaster busts in the museum out there of gunmen who were dead and buried in Boot Hill. And one said “Two-Gun Haney.”

My father and I, we were looking at this photograph of the bust, of the face — I’m sorry, not a bust but a death mask, you know? And of course, that’s pretty accurate. And it was my father’s face. I mean, it was like unbelievable. It was like his twin brother. Well, we figured it had to be the great-uncle. And where he wound up in, probably, maybe, the late 1860s, was shot or something — who knows what the hell? I’ve always wanted to stop there and see if it could be verified.

But he was a rugged character. I’m sort of proud of him. [Laughs.] He was not a patriot but he did come over from Ireland and he was a poor — you know, the Irish were kicked around in those days, a lot.

This sequence is from “One Pilot Too Many!” in G.I. Combat #93 April/May 1962.  Art by Russ Heath. ©1962 DC Comics Click to view larger image.

But then we had other people in the war. My grandmother — not my great-grandmother but my grandmother — knitted socks for the soldiers. She used to tell me about that. When I tell people today that my grandmother was alive and active during the Civil War, they can’t believe it. She saw Lincoln in his coffin when the funeral train came through Philadelphia. I was 15 when she died, so I knew her very well. She lived a long time.

CATRON: Wow. Well, it’s good that you have that much family history.

HANEY: Well, there’s one reason, in my case, you can do that. It would usually take an extra generation but in my case it was because she did not have my father until she was 45 years old. Even today that’s unusual.

CATRON: And then you have two older sisters?

HANEY: Yeah, they’re both alive. The one I’m going to see in Mexico is down there in the Baja.

Living in a Hooverville

CATRON: Tell me about your formative years.

HANEY: You’ve read about it, I’m sure, but that Depression was a tremendous, traumatic turning point in American life.

The ’20s had been prosperous, you know. My father made a decent living. He was a World War I vet, a young man still, and he was a salesman. He made a living. And he was able to study — they had a G.I. bill after World War I. Most people don’t know that. But if you had an injury related to the war — and he’d lost his hearing in one ear. So at night he got a college education in engineering.

Anyway, the Depression came. And that’s one of my first memories. I’m a small child, four, five and six years old. In the early ’30s, my family wound up — you know what a Hooverville was?

CATRON: Well, I do, but why don’t you tell us?

HANEY: Well, Hoover was the president in the early part of the Depression. Hoovervilles were the little shanty towns that people of all types — and they weren’t bums by any means, they were ordinary people, working people, and even middle-class people — would assemble to live. In tents and shacks and trailers. We lived in a Hooverville north of Philadelphia. Not in Oklahoma or California but in the East there were Hoovervilles.

CATRON: And, of course, “Hooverville.” That was not a complimentary term.

This panel is from “The Desert Wins ‘Em All!” in G.I. Combat #92, Feb.-March 1962. Art by Jerry Grandenetti. ©1961 DC Comics

HANEY: No, you’re quite right. It was a derogatory — because everybody hated Hoover. It was not all Hoover’s fault. He wasn’t a bad man. He was a man with a lot of abilities, actually. But he had no idea how to get out of the Depression and he had no feeling for poor people. He was a self-made, wealthy engineer himself.

Anyway, we lived in a Hooverville for one year. We lived on a farm — this very generous farmer let people live there free. The freight trains would come through the railroad cut and all these young men, sunburned young men, would hop off the freights. Everybody was moving around the country, looking for work. It was like some of the movies you saw that came a little later. They would stop at our Hooverville and get a meal from the women there. They’d tell their hard-luck stories and they’d hop another freight, heading somewhere looking for work.

My father was selling vegetables in the back streets of Philadelphia. We lived on vegetables. There was no other food. We lived on what he couldn’t sell. And I remember, he got a job, which was a direct result of the Depression.

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company owned all these mortgages in the Philadelphia area and people couldn’t pay their mortgages, so they were foreclosed and they were thrown out on the street. It was an awful time. They needed somebody to fix up these houses, and he was a contractor/engineer. How he lucked onto the job, I don’t know. We left to move into a little warm apartment in the city and the snow was flying. And I thought, “Well, jeez, I guess the other people are coming, too.” I was what? Six, maybe. And my mother said, “No, they’re not coming.”

I can still see — right now, I can still see the image of the people standing there by their tents and old jalopies waving goodbye to us. In November. Late November.

CATRON: Wow.

HANEY: Anyway, we moved into the city and we survived through the Depression.

But you know, World War II cured the Depression. Everything Roosevelt did — and he was a great man — that didn’t cure it, really. He tried, you know. It took the War to cure the Depression. But that’s part of the problems with capitalism and the business cycle. I’m an old socialist.

CATRON: There was a certain recovery starting but it just didn’t seem to catch on fire.

HANEY: Yeah. He did a lot of great things. There was the CCC and the WPA and all the things and programs. He gave the country hope. He’s a great man by my standards. But what I’m saying is, to be accurate about history — and I have history degrees — it took the War to really bring prosperity back to the country. That’s part of the problem with the capitalistic system. As I say, I’m an old socialist. I don’t believe in pure capitalism by any means. It creates too many victims.

CATRON: Where were you educated, then, if you were living in a Hooverville?

HANEY: We were only there one year — then I went to — well, I’ll tell you, the other problem was — this was very traumatic because the rest of the ’30s, my father had a job for a while, then he had to go to another job. Jobs were still hard to get and you didn’t get paid much, anyway. We were moving one step ahead of the sheriff. We moved — I lost count of the times. It was terrible. In a given school year, I could be in three or four schools.

Every time you’d go into a school, you’d have to fight some school bully. I was a very quiet kid. I was not an aggressive kid or anything. And it was a very traumatic thing. And the only thing I could hold on to was academics. And in these schools, I stood out. I usually wound up in the first seat. Because if you wound up in the first seat, you were the teacher’s pet and you had to fight some asshole in the schoolyard.

Then, finally, before World War II, very late ’30s, my father had somewhat more stability, although he sometimes took off for a couple of years at a time.

Anyway, World War II came and I was still pretty young. But I didn’t think I’d be going into it. It seemed remote. We were living in the suburbs of Philly. On a better economic level at that point.

CATRON: What town was that?

HANEY: Upper Darby, Delaware County. So my teenage years were in a suburban environment, which was a lot better. I went to the Upper Darby school system for all of junior high and high school. It was a much different time. In the suburbs of that period, American life was quiet and like your early TV shows. So that was a stabilizing period.

High School, College and Comics

CATRON: How did you develop your love of reading?

HANEY: Well, as a small boy in school, I just was a very fast reader. I could devour a book in an afternoon. I could come home and devour a 250-page book in a long afternoon. I was a very fast reader. And I retained.

I wasn’t as brilliant as some of the people I ran into later. Especially at my college, which was the top college in the country. Some of them were much more brilliant than I am but I had this fast-reading ability and retention ability. Which are good, you know? They’re useful tools. They’re no substitute for a real powerful, brilliant mind. I have a decent mind. I had a pretty decent IQ but I was not near like some of the people I met later.

Anyway, I would come home from school and read. I was a very bookish kid. I was not, you know, out creating hell. [Laughs.]

CATRON: What was it you were reading then?

HANEY: I read a lot. I don’t want to make it sound more precocious than it was. I read a lot of stuff that young people would read. I read the famous authors who wrote — books like Kazan, Dog of the North, by James Oliver Curwood. He was a fine writer but he was a pop writer. And Jack London. I loved Jack London. He was a step up. And I read — to get back to comics, which, after all, is what we’re all interested in here — I was a great reader of the newspaper comics. I loved comics. I still do. I was attracted to the medium. And the Big Little Books. I wish I had my Tailspin Tommy. It’s probably worth thousands. But I would read those.

When I got in my mid-teens, I was reading serious stuff. Some of my teachers in school got interested in me because they like a student who’s more intelligent and more into reading and they would recommend books to me. One of my high school teachers gave me Das Kapital by Karl Marx. [Laughter.]

CATRON: No kidding? They’d get fired for doing that these days.

HANEY: Yeah. Well, I waded into that. I would read biographies of Bismarck, Napoleon. I read a lot of adult stuff.

I was a good student in high school but I was not as good as I could have been. Because we had a lot of disruptions in my family, so I was never as concentrated or focused a person as I should have been. I worked at all kinds of jobs from the age of eight on. Eight, 10, I was working jobs after school and weekends. And part of the time when I was about 12 or 14, I was helping to support the family.

CATRON: What sort of jobs were they?

HANEY: Well, they — newspapers and magazines, of course. You sold those door-to-door. I worked in a gas station. A grocery store. When I was a teenager, I was supposed to be a stockboy at a major department store in Philadelphia and I wound up doing an assistant buyer’s job for stockboy wages. All sorts of things to help the family.

My father would take off sometimes. He was very unstable. He took off when I was a teenager for several years.

CATRON: So you were the man of the house, then?

HANEY: Yeah, in a way. I don’t recommend it. [Laughs.]

CATRON: Were you collecting anything at that time, like pulps?

HANEY: No, I was — well, the comic books were then, in the ’30s, were just — ’38 is the great comics turning year, right?

CATRON: We’re just about to get there.

HANEY: So I was aware of them. They were around. Of course, spending a dime for them was a lot of money. Dime got you into the movies, you know. I went to a lot of movies. I loved movies. And that’s what comics are — frozen movies. I bought some and read some but I was not — I want to make this very clear. I was never a great fan  — which, I guess, maybe you are — all the fans that buy your magazine, what this whole interview is about. I was never a comics fan. I notice Carmine said something about that himself, in his interview [in TCJ #191] — Carmine Infantin

Bob in the Navy

HANEY: I remember when I got in the Navy. My ship — we had all these Tennessee and Kentucky mountain boys. And they were semi-literate at best. Which was a bit shocking because the Navy usually had a high literacy level. But not during the War — they had to take anybody. These guys had comic books by the thousands on the ship, it seemed. They didn’t have to read them. They could read a few words. The pictures told the story, right?

CATRON: Right.

HANEY: So, I saw more comic books on my ship when I was already a college man, or age, than I did when I was an earlier teenager. At that point I was reading intellectual stuff [laughs], I was reading Professor Schlesinger’s books on my ship while these guys were reading, probably, DC Comics right next to me.

Anyway, I graduated from high school and then I went to college nearby, Swarthmore, which is down near Chester, Pennsylvania, south of Philadelphia. Not too far from where I grew up. [Swarthmore is] one of three Quaker colleges outside of Philadelphia, Bryn Mawr and Haverford being the other two. Swarthmore was the co-ed version. Haverford was all-male and Bryn Mawr was all-female — where Katherine Hepburn went, people like that.

CATRON: Were you a socialist/pacifist at that time?

HANEY: Yeah. Definitely the Quaker thing. I still — if I were going to join any organized religion, it would be the Quakers.

CATRON: So you’re a pacifist/socialist and were you drafted, or did you volunteer? How did you get into the Navy?

HANEY: No, I was going to be drafted. I’m in college and I’m about to be drafted. I’m going to turn 18. I went to college at 17, barely 17. I worked my way through. I got a scholarship. I spent six months of that year, the year I got out of high school early — the War was on. And I worked in a shipyard.

I worked seven nights a week, the graveyard shift, from midnight to eight in the morning and boy, was that tough, let me tell you. I learned a respect, Mike, for hard industrial labor that I’ve never lost. Some people do it all their lives and they have my admiration. Because it is exhausting and dangerous.

It was the Sun shipyard. We built tankers down in the lower Delaware. It had a higher rate of casualties than the service did.

CATRON: No kidding?

HANEY: Yeah. Well, they were running the equipment three shifts a day. Continually. Building ships is dangerous, anyway. I almost was killed twice. One time, one of them was deliberate, some black guy was out to get me. We had a fight and an argument. Blah, blah, blah. Anyway, it was very dangerous. I saw guys killed with my own eyes. I worked there and I earned enough money to go to college. To start college.

CATRON: So then you decided to enlist rather than be drafted because you wanted your choice of services?

HANEY: Yeah, well I remember I joined what they called the V-12, which was the Navy’s officers training program.

CATRON: What was that? That was a kind of a reserve thing?

HANEY: No, no. God, no. You did about a year and then you went directly into the fleet. Well, you had to go to Midshipman’s school.

CATRON: And where was Midshipman’s school?

HANEY: Harvard. [Laughter.]

I know. It sounds funny. Well, they also had an equivalent Army program, the ASVP, I think it was called, and that was all over — The Citadel, that place that’s in the news all the time, had a big Army unit. The irony was that when I joined, they sent me right back to my own college. I left one weekend and came back the next and put on a uniform. It was kind of funny.

CATRON: Tell us a bit about your Navy career.

HANEY: Well, I was there about a year in that. And I flunked. I never got my [officer’s] bars because I flunked calculus. [Chuckles.] I’m no mathematician. My strong points are social sciences, English, history, blah, blah, blah.

And I went out in the fleet — I got out there as the war was winding down. I got out for the last big battle [which] was Okinawa. In the Spring of ’45, my ship was off the — what they called the “Picket Line” up the coast of the island. And the kamikazes were coming out. When I got to the ship, these guys had been on duty there for several weeks already and boy, they were on the guns 24 hours a day. There were ships up the line and down the line that got hit but the Charlie Lawrence did not get hit. It was a lucky ship, or whatever. That was scary but I wasn’t exposed to it too long. And the atom bomb came. You know the rest.

Sharks and Soldiers

CATRON: Well, you wrote about seeing sharks in the water and torsos floating —

HANEY: Yeah, well, I remember on the way out to join my ship in the late winter of ’45, crossing the Pacific. You know, it’s an enormous ocean and I’d never seen it. I loved the ocean and I loved ships but I didn’t like the Navy.

It was just the fact that the Pacific was full of sharks. Now you read about sharks being endangered. It’s hard to believe. I used to watch, during the daytime especially, up on the bridge looking down at the water coursing by constantly. Thousands of miles of water and there’d be a shark every foot, practically. It seemed that way. [Laughs.]

CATRON: Oh my God.

HANEY: Anyway — and then when we got to Eniwetok and places like that, which had just been conquered, they were a shambles. There were bodies still in the lagoons, what was left of them. And Japanese prisoners, you saw, of course. Then I got to the Philippines and that’s where I picked up the Charlie Lawrence and then we were off of Oki[nawa] shortly thereafter. The War ended shortly thereafter.

CATRON: When were you discharged?

HANEY: I didn’t get out until early ’46. I was part of Operation Magic Carpet in the Pacific. Our ship, after Oki and after the peace, after the bomb — in fact, I was home on leave when the bomb was dropped — anyway, the War was finally over in, what? — September. We were on duty minesweeping — we were not a minesweeper but we were on duty patrolling off Japan. We were exploding mines with the 20 mm guns. And just keeping — there were some Japanese ships still floating around that hadn’t — [laughs]. I guess in the Philippines, briefly, after it was liberated, I was in an Army camp for a couple of weeks, in transit. At night we’d have movies. We’d put a big screen outdoors. We got all the movies before the American public did. They were shipped directly from Hollywood. And I saw these little silhouetted heads up on a hill nearby. And I said, “Who the hell is that?”

And one of the Army guys said, “Oh, it’s the Japs. The holdouts.” They were living in the jungle. And they would come out and watch the movie. [Catron laughs.] Nobody bothered them. Nobody wanted to start a shooting thing with them because they were still armed. The War had just ended, right? Well, in fact it hadn’t ended at that point. It had ended in the Philippines, which was liberated earlier.

CATRON: I remember reading accounts in the ’60s of still finding lone Japanese soldiers off on an island somewhere.

HANEY: Wasn’t there a guy as late as ’72 or something? A lieutenant, he was like 60 years old. He came out of the jungle either in Guam or the Philippines somewhere. [Laughs.] He knew the War was over, he just didn’t want to surrender. A lot of the guys later that did come over the years didn’t know at first that the war was over. I did a war story — one of my better ones, I’d say — Return to Beach Red, about an American who comes back to show his son where he fought in the War. Of course I did it back in the late ’50s for [DC editor Robert] Kanigher, I guess. So that wasn’t so long after the War. And the Japanese holdout that he had fought is still there. [Laughs.] It was a pretty good story. And it has a tragic ending.

This panel is from Our Army At War #216, Feb.-May 1970. Art by Joe Kubert. ©1970 DC Comics. Click to view larger image.

CATRON: Well, that’s one thing I wanted to ask you. I found a lot of reprints of stories I suspect may have been by you but the writer isn’t identified.

HANEY: Well, the writer in the war stories was never identified.

CATRON: Right. When they reprinted it, if they knew, they would put the writer’s name in as well as the artist.

HANEY: If they knew. Kanigher kept no records. He was a mess that way. Julie [DC editor Julius Schwartz] kept the records for Kanigher, which he didn’t have to do but he was a much more organized guy, Julie Schwartz. But Kanigher kept no records and it fucked me up. I lost money because of it. He’s a total asshole anyway.

CATRON: What became of you when you finally got out of the service?

HANEY: Well, I went back to college, got my degree. That was ’48. Came to New York, went to Columbia for a year, got a master’s degree.

CATRON: Now what field is this?

HANEY: French history. My thesis is up there on the shelf right next to President Eisenhower’s son’s thesis. President Eisenhower’s son, who’s a bit older than I, is a colonel, an ex-colonel, quite a man. I don’t know what you know about him. John Eisenhower.

CATRON: David Eisenhower’s father?

HANEY: Yeah. This is David Eisenhower’s father. The middle generation. He was there when I was there — that year, ’48, ’49, the college had about 60,000 students or more. And I was a student and my thesis is up there with his. His thesis — I remember taking it down off the shelf, it was near mine — was “The Soldier in Elizabethean Drama.”

He was quite a man in his own right. Of course, his father was the great, famous — my degree has President Eisenhower’s signature on it. There’s a great story about that.

CATRON: Tell me.

HANEY: [Laughs.] When Nicholas Murray Butler died at Columbia University, which is one of the great universities of the world, they were looking for a new president. So they had a board of directors, or trustees, meeting and one guy had to catch a plane and he was going out the door and he said, “Get Eisenhower.” He came back a week later and they said, “Well, we did what you said. We got General Eisenhower. He said, “I didn’t mean Ike. I meant Milton.”

Milton was [Ike’s] brother, and a fine intellectual man who was president of another university. [laughter] But no mistake because getting — here, this great general, the savior of Europe, brought in unbelievable money to Columbia. So he was a figurehead but it was a great move. So his signature happens to be on my degree amongst about 75,000 others.

CATRON: And where were you living at that time?

HANEY: I was living in Manhattan, up near Columbia. That’s when I got into comics. ’48.


Tomorrow: Bob Haney explains how he broke into writing comics, interacted with the personalities at DC before the “Marvel Revolution” hit and the Comics Code.

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